DreamQuest Academy’s Mission
Our nonprofit school’s mission is to inspire future engineers in our community through creative play. Our unique afterschool, summer camp, and game jam programs encourage kids away from the often isolated act of playing videogames by instead offering a fun, creative, and educational alternative through the collaborative social process of designing and coding a videogame.
Our goal is to expose all kids to coding – which often means making an extra effort to attract girls, minorities, and low income kids who might otherwise not gain competency in STEM skills, confidence in the use of technology, or even consider a future career in engineering or Computer Science.
A Brief Description Of Our Organization
DreamQuest Academy offers innovative programs for kids and teens ages 7 to 16 in the Denver and Boulder metro area. We offer STEM-based afterschool programs at both public and private schools, game jam events, and summer camps – all teaching kids engineering and social skills through building videogames.
We leverage our students’ existing passions for videogames to teach them how to code in a fun and creative way: first they learn how to code mods in Minecraft, and then the fundamentals of game design and coding by creating their own unique RPG, FPS, Platformer, 2D, or VR adventure games in Unity, a leading commercial game development engine. Our classes fill a much needed gap between existing elementary school CSed teaching tools like Scratch, Hopscotch, Bitsbox, or Agentsheets, and high school or college courses teaching AP Computer Science, Java, or other career-oriented programming courses.
DreamQuest Academy is very unique in that it grew out of DreamQuest Games, a commercially successful game development studio with over 50 titles shipped for PC, game consoles, and mobile apps over the past 15 years. Our experienced developers now inspire and expose these kids to the very real career possibilities that coding can provide. We motivate youth to challenge themselves by learning new skills, and promote the rewards of being a producer rather than just a consumer of the videogame medium they love. Our uniquely engaging and creative programs are ideal to expose technology and engineering to those with limited access, build proficiency and confidence in themselves, and open their minds to the possibility of a career in Computer Science and Engineering.
What Makes Us Unique and Innovative
- Industry Game Developers – Since we grew out of a successful 15-year game development studio, we have a unique passion and experience for games of which we leverage to really inspire our students.
- Collaborative and Social – All of our camps and classes emphasize team-based and collaborative creation in a mix of age, gender, and experience levels, which is rarely seen in today’s CS programs. This social mix results in both better games and helps to break the stereotype of the engineer as a loner IT guy and appeal more to creative and social kids.
- Bridge the CSed Gap – We fill a much-needed gap in the current progression of computer science education between elementary school and high school. Most students outgrow existing offerings by Grades 4 or 5 and are left with little to keep them interested in coding until they reach high school.
- Focus on Creative Play – Although other STEM and CS programs are fun, our program is uniquely focused on creative play as an ideal path to motivate our students and to help them build confidence. For example, a low income female student in our current program recently announced she wants to pursue computer science specifically because she got hooked by her game’s storyline, and was invested in the creative aspects of building her team’s game level.
About the Instructors
Christopher Williamson – Lead Instructor, Lead Designer, and Lead Programmer
After numerous parents and kids begged him to teach a camp, Christopher launched DreamQuest Academy for Spring Break 2013 and taught 3 more camps that summer. He founded DreamQuest Games in 2000 and has been leading mobile game development since 2004. His Masters in Software Engineering leads to delivering projects on-time and under-budget. Under Christopher’s direction, DreamQuest Games has shipped over 30 successful game titles on mobile game platforms, including IOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile and Symbian, including being awarded 2 US Patents and PocketPC Game of the Year in 2006 for Championship Spades. At Idol Minds, Christopher was Lead Programmer on Madagascar 2, a 3D game which sold over a million units for Activision in 2008. Most recently, he has ported DreamQuest Game’s catalog of 13 family-oriented card and board games to iOS and Android, including Championship Hearts, which was released in January 2012. Christopher’s favorite games are M.U.L.E., Final Fantasy III, Skyrim, and he’s currently playing League of Legends, Hearthstone, and Borderlands 2.
Jacob Etter – Instructor
Jacob has always been interested in video games, even when all he had was access to an old family Macintosh. During high school he focused his studies on as much computer-programming as the school could offer. Jacob attended CU Boulder as it has a highly-regarded Computer Science program, and he focused on Software Development and 3D animation. Upon graduation he began work at Dreamquest. His most-played game of all time is Titan Quest: Immortal Throne. He is currently playing Diablo 3, Warframe, Mechwarrior Online, and he is eagerly awaiting the release of Titanfall.
Darrell Hardy – Instructor
Darrell is a game designer working in video games, board games, and tabletop RPGs. He got his start making games on graph paper for his friends in junior high study hall. (They might not have been good games, but they were good enough for 13 year-olds obsessed with ninjas.) While he may claim that his favorite games are those with complex strategies or deep story-lines, the fact he’s spent hundreds of hours in Just Cause 2 doing nothing more than tying sports cars to helicopters suggests his tastes may not be so refined as he’d have us think.